What does the Conservative Party have to do to win the next election?

By Matt Beebee

The 2010 General Election should have been a clear Conservative victory. It wasn’t. 64% of those that voted backed other parties. This was a perplexing outcome given the Tories were facing a tired and battered Labour Party, trudging through a global financial crisis with rising public debt. Under the leadership of the young David Cameron, who had shifted the party towards the centre ground, victory looked all but certain. Yet failure to win outright forced the Conservatives’ hand into a coalition with the Liberal Democrats; a relationship that has been tetchy to say the least.

The relatively poor show was always going to give the Conservatives, who were polling 20 points ahead of Labour before the 2010 election, an uphill struggle in the 2015 general election given the tough decisions they would have to make in government – on the economy in particular. Former Cabinet minister Michael Portillo has blunted declared “the Conservatives appear to be doomed” at the next general election. He could be right; no party has ever increased its share of votes at a subsequent general election since 1955.

With such pessimistic inevitability, should the Tories concede themselves to losing the election? No. Much could change during the remaining two years of government, but the Tories have three big obstacles they must – and more importantly can – overcome to win the next election.

First, there is the matter of the Labour Party. Despite Labour consistently polling around 10 points better than the Tories, they come out worse in two important polls: preferred leader and economic competence. Although it iz grossly unfair to dismiss Ed Miliband as a leader based on his physical appearance, the electorate do seem to lean favourably towards David Cameron’s style and aptitude as an orator. Labour’s continual dithering over turning ideas into policy, if left too late, could play into the Tories hands. To their credit, they have a plan and are sticking to it. Likewise, Ed Balls, Labour’s shadow chancellor, is considered a prime target to personify Labour’s ineptitude with his rowdy, firebrand style of politics. The Conservatives will seek to push this idea; Labour has no strategy for taking tough decisions in government and opposes with little in the way of alternative policy.

Then there is Europe; the Conservative Party’s ‘elephant in the room’. Cameron has already committed himself to an in/out referendum in 2017 if he is Prime Minister. The paradox is that Cameron does not wish to leave the EU; he wishes to reform it politically while retaining the economically vital single market. He has felt the urge to accommodate the Eurosceptic crowd given the surge of UKIP and the perceived natural Euroscepticism because of Britain’s island culture. This pandering should be avoided. A YouGov poll from January stated 34% would vote to leave the EU while 40% would vote to remain. Cameron should instead be pushing for a reformed EU treaty – something he is confident of doing – that reclaims parliamentary sovereignty and supports economic liberalism, demonstrating that he does worry about European encroachment while emphasising that leaving the EU single market is to the detriment of the UK’s private sector. This should win back the Eurosceptic defectors and render a dangerous referendum unnecessary. Despite its many troubles, voters must remember the EU is still the world’s largest market and the UK’s major trading partner.

However, it is the economy that wins elections. Although ComRes, a polling consultancy, found the electorate are more likely to trust ‘Team Cameron & Osborne’ over ‘Team Miliband & Balls’ on the economy, this should not cause complacency. The deficit may have fallen year-on-year since 2010, but only minimally; public spending is continually higher than it should be, largely due to automatic stabiliser payments and continual ringfencing of certain government departments – international aid is a particular bitter pill for a domestic electorate facing squeezes. Removing ringfencing will allow for efficiency within departments, further reduce departmental spending on waste, while also freeing up money for capital spending projects, generating multiplier effects on job creation and consumer demand.

Unemployment continues to creep above 2.5million, too. More should be done to cut unnecessary red tape that hampers job creation. Pressing ahead with radical reform to the welfare system, although painful, seems to strike a chord with the electorate. If people can be pushed back into work through welfare and regulatory reform, job creation and growth will soon pick up. If growth, rising employment and greater deficit reduction can be achieved the Tories can at last claim to have moved the economy out of the doldrums, significantly boosting their electoral hopes.

Securing an outright majority in 2015 will be a tough ask for the Conservatives given the precarious position they defend and the fragility of the economy is by no means bound to change, despite recent upturns. With a clear focus on the right policy choices over the next two year,, so to outmanoeuvre their main rivals, the Conservatives stand a better chance of re-entering government in 2015.

The Coalition: the imperfect solution to times of great uncertainty

By Sebastian Whale

Okay, they have been a mixed bag. Hastily formed at a time of great political uncertainty, contravening all natural barriers between the right and left, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats formed an allegiance that seemed as unnatural as it did unlikely. Despite manifesto pledges being overturned and public humiliation orchestrated through tuition fee increases, EU referendum pledges, perversions of the course of justice and exposed penchants for expensive burger chains, this most unattractive of arranged marriages has put two fingers to the face of cynics who stated they could never peacefully co-exist. ‘Peacefully’, admittedly, may be a redundant term, given last minute vetoing of a “snooper’s” charter, the split positions on the AV and the conspicuous handling of news internationals bid for BSkyB. “It will never last”, the cynics contentedly stated, but for the good or detriment of the country, depending what side of the coalition fence one finds themselves, the coalition seem set on completing their pledge of serving a full term of office.

And I for one applaud this. Not because they have been a benchmark for excellent government policy, absent of controversy and bent political ambition, altruistic in their intentions and perfect in their execution. No, they have been far from it. From the initial years of withdrawing any policy that faced public scrutiny like an over-sensitive teenager, to blatant stubbornness at the thought of changing course on an “excel-error” based economic policy, the coalition’s inconsistency has been the only constant during their tenure. Sure, some positive signs have appeared recently, following the meaty bone being thrown to them by the ONS overturning the double-dip to the single, extensively deep recession only experienced under Labour. Finally realising the need for capital spending, the inherent opportunity of the development and production of shale gas and the renewal of investment needed in North Sea oil have been essential to this mini revival.

However, it would be too narrow minded to judge the coalition and their governmental output solely on the controversies and inter party struggles. The fact is, whilst there are seismic shifts in the composition of the global political landscape, illustrated by the Arab spring uprising, the emergence of extreme parties across European elections, anti-government protests seen from Turkey to Brazil, the need for compromise and calm has never been greater. During times of oppression, depression or even a convoluted state of affairs, the extremes can emerge and danger arises. Germany in the 1920s experienced hyperinflation and an extreme period of economic hardship, leading to the formation and election of the NSDAP – the Nazi party.

All across Europe, from France to Greece, far right and far left parties are gaining traction, as electorates seek to absolve the status quo associated with the plight they are currently facing. Rebels fighting against tyrannical governments such as in Syria, Libya and Egypt have been armed by allies in decisions that assuage some of the abhorrence the public hold with the actions by the Governments of these countries. However these actions echo an all too familiar tale of western governments arming rebels, leading to the inherent concern of “who are we arming?” such as with Afghanistan and the Russian invaders during the 1980s, which ultimately led to weapons and capabilities being handed over to what would eventually become the enemy of the Western world and the antithesis to freedom and democracy, the Taliban.

These are uncertain and perplexing times, not just confined to other continents. Nigel Farage and his merry UKIP men have seemingly put their mark on British politics as a right wing party that have become the voice of discontented middle England during times of economic deluge and high levels of income inequality, with no hint of irony or acknowledgement of this anomaly. The right have become more vocal, exacerbated by Boris Johnson worshipping and EU membership postulating. The left, through the appointment of Ed Milliband, have taken a diversion from the centre-ground hugging days of Blair and Brown back to its more core left leaning roots, as the unions may or may not be calling the shots and having influence over potential candidates. The centre ground would have dissipated, but for a coalition formed of polar opposite parties, naturally balancing the highly sprung seesaw of modern politics.

The fact remains, two polar opposite political parties by ideology, are attempting to naturally hug the centre ground and keep parliamentary procedure in check by forming an alliance I’m sure not anyone within would call a win-win situation. But while others all around are losing their heads, the coalition are achieving something many have forgotten the importance of during times of great upheaval, the skill of compromise. It’s miles from perfect; frankly it often isn’t pretty, but by demonstrating that parties on opposing ends of the political spectrum during periods of hardship can co-exist, however fraught and discombobulating, is an important signal going forward.

So here’s to the coalition. The frustrating, infuriating, imperfect solution, to what Britain needs to have now. History is not likely to capture their tenure as one of the great, policy rich governments but should, in my opinion, encapsulate it as an important statement of continuity and compromise, when all those around are seeking radical change that, as the annals of history has proven, can do more harm than good.

‘Rights for shares’ flop demonstrates wider crisis of creativity within the government

By Alex Bryan

This week it has come to light that George Osborne’s ‘rights for shares’ scheme has, two months before it is even due to begin, become an embarrassing failure for the government. It has been reported that only 6 companies have enquired about the plan, much lower than expected from a scheme which was deemed important and popular enough to star in the Chancellor’s speech to the Conservative Party conference.

When the policy was announced many, including myself, were sceptical, firstly of the chances of such a move boosting a dormant economy and secondly of the desirability of aiding businesses through the disempowerment and exploitation of their workers. The muted response to the policy shows that these reservations are widespread, and signals another failed attempt in the government’s search for growth.

With hindsight, it seems ludicrous that such a policy could have been given such a high billing, not only because of its limitations as a policy but also due to its rather traditional character. The general theory that restricting the rights of workers will enhance productivity and profits is steeped in history and, for a government (and specifically the leadership of the Conservative Party) which presents an image of modernisation and fresh thinking, rather staid.

The now entrenched divide between Conservative frontbenchers and backbenchers seems to be largely based on David Cameron’s process of ‘detoxification’, which involved the rejection of a number of key traditional conservative mantras. The Cameroons are often derided by those who do not regard them as ‘true’ conservatives, often to the point where backbench rebellions threaten government credibility.

It seems strange then that such an image would be maintained despite the central placement of such policies. However, this is not an issue of a backbench-frontbench divide. Rather, it is demonstrative of a wider crisis of creativity within the government at present. With the exception of a few ministers most departments have tended to continue presenting rehashed versions of old ideas, which have been embraced by Number 10.

The ‘rights for shares’ scheme was not only poorly thought through, it was disappointingly predictable. The specific implementation of the idea might be new, but the idea itself is far from it. This is not to say that all government policies must be entirely original, or that there is not something within political history that governments could learn, but that faced with the particular crises that are at hand, and with a government which trumpets the importance of innovation and entrepreneurialism from the rooftops, one might expect more interesting thought.

Even most of the policies floated in opposition to the government by their own MP’s are lacking in intellectual vim. The ‘Alternative Queen’s Speech’ floated by a group of Conservative backbenchers was more a 1913 vintage than a 2013, other than a sole sensible and interesting suggestion (to establish a maximum number of members of the House of Lords).

Sometimes though, backbenchers come up with better ideas. This week Nadhim Zahawi MP echoed Boris Johnson’s previous call for an amnesty of all existing illegal immigrants within the UK, saying that the move would be economically advantageous as well as electorally astute for the Conservatives. Writing for a conservative think tank aiming to increase the popularity of the Conservative Party among ethnic minority voters, Zahawi’s suggestion is clearly far from selfless, but it is still brave and worthy of serious consideration.

Unfortunately, the government distanced itself from the suggestions as quickly as it could. The fact that the government could promote Osborne’s ‘rights for shares’ policy so whole-heartedly and yet dismiss Zahawi’s idea without public discussion demonstrates the wider pattern of unimaginative policy. Before David Cameron came into office, he was aware that this could be a problem, and he tried to solve it by bringing in unorthodox policy guru Steve Hilton. Since Hilton’s departure, the problem has only become more pronounced.

The economic crisis, in both length and character, differs from any we have previously faced. Globalisation, climate change, international terrorism and energy crises have created a peculiar political environment, which will not revert to a fabled status quo. In times of trouble, it is imperative that leaders are creative and imaginative, thinking about problems without genuine openness and ingenuity. Unfortunately, at the moment, it remains to be seen whether our leaders are thinking at all.

I don’t know whether is it was just some Fleet Street thing: Nick Clegg and the danger of morality doorstepping

By John Newton

Nick Clegg has been accused of making a gaffe after appearing to down play the seriousness of domestic violence on his LBC Call Clegg programme. Newspapers reported that the Deputy Prime Minister had described an incident involving Charles Saatchi putting his hands around his wife, Nigella Lawson’s throat as “fleeting”. However, what Clegg said and the response it elicited point to interesting currents at play in the relationship between politicians and the media.

Modern politics is sometimes a depressingly stage managed affair, with entire departments of well qualified and savvy media operators working manically to ensure that in every contact with the press or the public our politicians come across as normal, decent human beings.

This is actually surprisingly difficult, so naturally when the assiduously conceived mask slips and the plausible ‘hard working public servant’ goes off script, the press seize it gratefully and run with it, often with opposing parties providing supporting cover down the wings.

There have been Ken Clarke’s infamous comments questioning the legitimacy of date-rape on BBC Radio 5live, which prompted Labour leader Ed Miliband to call for his resignation, or Gordon Brown’s much vaunted ‘bigot’ remarks in the run-up to the 2010 election.

Both of these things were legitimate sources of news as they provided pertinent and substantial insights into the views of the politicians involved. Ken Clarke was at the time he made his comments on the Victoria Derbyshire programme the Justice Secretary. This clearly provided a disturbing perspective on the way he would act as a Minister.

Similarly, during the 2010 general election campaign, a key issue for the Gordon Brown’s government was a collapse in support amongst traditional working class Labour voters over issues like immigration policy. By accusing Gillian Duffy of being a “bigot” on a microphone which had been mistakenly left on, Brown seemed to show a lack of understanding of the views and fears of one of his party’s core demographics.

In the case of Nick Clegg’s comments however, it seems that while the response was one of unequivocal condemnation, the narrative is much more nuanced.

Clegg’s words were not elegant or inspiring. It can safely be assumed that a more wizened political operator would have quietly stressed they couldn’t comment on an individual case and loudly condemned domestic violence.

The Liberal Democrat leader in fact seemed to do the opposite.  Asked if he would have personally intervened in the particular incident depicted between Saatchi and Lawson, he initially said:

“What a difficult question…I find it so difficult to imagine. So you see a couple…I’m like you, I don’t know what happened. When you see a couple having an argument, most people you know, just assume the couple will just resolve it themselves. If something descends into outright violence then that’s something different. I just don’t know.

“There was this one photograph. I don’t know whether that was just a fleeting thing or…I’m really sorry … I’m at a loss to be able to put myself in that position without knowing.”

Only then adding when asked to comment more generally: “I hope everyone’s instincts would be…to try and protect the weaker person. To try and protect the person who might be hurt.”

This is clearly not a well constructed or rousing condemnation of what is generally perceived as a wide-spread but clandestine crime. Rather reasonably, that is because that is not what Mr Clegg was asked to comment on. The caller asked him specifically about what was shown in the pictures of Lawson and Saatchi and whether that would have prompted him to intervene. Having only seen one of the pictures, Clegg said he didn’t know how he would have responded. As it appeared that Clegg was unaware that Saatchi had accepted a police caution for the incident, it seems he strove not to tread too heavily on possibly libelous ground by making any direct statement a about a case he seemed to know little about.

Within an hour of the programme going out, the Telegraph’s James Kirkup claimed in a blog post that the Deputy Prime Minister should “be ashamed of his comments this morning”. Kirkup notably picked up on the word “fleeting” which seemed to be the focal point for the subsequent criticism of Clegg’s comments. Vey early on this conflated the issue of whether Clegg was talking about the incident itself or positing the difficulties in deciding to intervene in an argument you know little about in a restaurant.

Listening to the broadcast, it is relatively clear the latter is the case. Once this conflation had been introduced however, torrents of condemnation followed.

Conservative MP Sarah Woollastone tweeted “So just don’t ‘call Clegg’ if your partner likes to grab you by the throat to emphasise a point”.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper released a statement attacking Mr Clegg for revealing “how little he understands about violence against women” as “too often violence against women is dismissed as fleeting or unimportant”.

Inevitably Mr Clegg’s office rushed out a statement clarifying that the politician unsurprisingly “completely condemned all forms of domestic violence”.

However, it seemed that Clegg’s reticence on the issue had provided a political open goal.

In an interview in Saturday’s Guardian, Labour leader Ed Miliband went further, bringing the focus back to the pictures themselves and the question of intervention. He said:

“Honestly, if you are passing by something like that happening – our duty is to intervene. If I had been in that situation, passing by in those circumstances, the right thing to do is to go up to somebody involved in that and say ‘What’s going on?’”

This was the immediate precursor to a difficult acknowledgement about the limits of Labour’s spending commitments, were the party to win the next election. The article’s topline remained the comments about the incident in the restaurant.

Using such a serious a complicated issue, like domestic violence, which is so often hidden from view, to make political capital is truly reprehensible. Obviously domestic abuse will not be solved by MPs rushing about restaurants demanding to know “What’s going on?”. The Labour party should know better than to treat the issue so cheaply.

The media tactics at play seem akin to ‘morality doorstepping’. Doorstepping refers to the practice of, typically, waiting outside someone’s home to fire questions at them on a particular topic as they make their way from the front step to the waiting car. It’s a favourite ploy for use on disgraced ministers and celebrities, where getting an actual comment is only slightly preferable to getting footage of a dogged figure refusing to answer a question.

When applied to serious and complex issues of morality and in this case as it has transpired criminality, a lack of comment seems tantamount to an endorsement, with which the press can then run with as a gaffe.

In this case in particular the conflation and lack of substance to the stories trivialise the issue as reporters pore over transcripts looking for a ‘smoking gun’ which could be used against Clegg.

The danger inherent in this method of journalism is that politicians will be presented with a stream of ‘what would you do if’, scenarios to respond to. In the main, politicians would welcome this as, with adequate preparation it gives them the chance to talk about themselves and promote a positive image. What is less desirable however is the onus placed on the personality of the politician rather than the gravity of the issue, giving the process a competitive element as political figures vie to give the ‘right’ answer.

Both before and after hearing Clegg’s comments and despite disagreeing with him on almost every conceivable level on politics and policy, I am pretty sure he doesn’t aim to condone or downplay instances of domestic violence.

By using these comments as a political weapon, conversely, politicians and the press have trivialised and distracted from the issues at hand.

The Citizens’ Advice Bureau and the End Violence Against Women Coalition, have both pointed to Government cuts to welfare meaning that victims of domestic abuse often have fewer options for escaping violent relationships, as women disproportionately lose out from changes to benefits.

By using the pictures of the incident the press has shown how it can highlight issues like domestic abuse, raising awareness and starting much-needed debates. However by turning the issue into a party political point-scoring exercise or a moratorium on Nick Clegg’s media relations skills this vital opportunity is squandered. This does not just constitute lazy journalism, it is actively damaging.

 

Cable wrong to call for more spending

By Robert Hainault

David Cameron has yet again pledged to get the economy ‘back on track’ while ignoring Vince Cable’s calls to increase spending. He claims that to change tack now would plunge the economy ‘back into the abyss’. I think it’s probably time that we looked at some figures.

Eamonn Butler of the Adam Smith Institute pointed out in October of 2011 that despite general gnashing of teeth about cuts, the government had actually spent more than the previous year. The April-June quarter of 2011 was 1.3% higher than in the same quarter the year before when adjusted for inflation. In fact, despite Cameron pledging early on in his premiership to cut spending on beurocracy, Whitehall spending was 7.2% higher in August 2011 than it was a year earlier.

So, an inauspicious start.

Since then, not much has changed. In 2011 total government spending was £681 billion . Last year it  was about the same when adjusted for inflation. However, what is often overlooked is the interest on the new debt we have incurred. The government spent £90 billion more than it raised. It’s reaction was, as with all previous governments of recent years, to print more money, exacerbating inflation which is a further drain on our national economy and is, in effect, a stealth tax. A tax which leaves people with less money in their pocket, and thus less to spend in the economy.

In 2012 the government paid nearly £51 billion in interest on our national debt. That was twice what they spent on transport and even more than we spent on national defence.

And it’s not getting any better. At the current rate of ‘cuts’ our government will have managed to shrink its expenditure to £668 billion by the year 2014-15 (again, adjusted for inflation), a reduction of only 2.9%. Yet by 2014-15 the interest on our national debt will be £60 billion, and repayments will need to comprise 10% of the budget in order to keep the debt at the current level.

So not only will the national debt not have decreased by 2015, it will be considerably larger. Though the coalition have made some small progress in reducing the deficit, the debt is spiralling out of control, and with economic growth still on vacation there will be no more revenue in 2015 than there is now. In short, we will owe more and have less.

Unless, of course, we can see government spending drastically reduced between now and then, we will not only be unable to keep up with out debt repayments, but we will be unable to stop them growing larger and larger.

What we need, if we are to avert disaster, are sober and serious cuts to the public sector, which still makes up over half of our economy. It is a simple principle: public sector services cost money; private sector services generate money. Getting the economy ‘back on track’ requires only two things: that expenditure should go town and revenue should go up. In order to reduce expenditure public sector services need to be cut to allow the private sector to provide them. This, in turn, generates capital which means more taxable income for the government.

What we must not do is carry on as we are. Worse than that would be an increase government spending. The government is already spending too much on services and too little on debt management as it is. The more we spend on services, the less we have to pay off our debt without incurring yet more debt in order to do it. Though it might be unpopular, the only thing that will save our country from bankruptcy is to drop the secateurs and pick up a chainsaw.

Live or Let Die? 3 ways the young could influence the Coalition’s future

(C)impawards.com

By Devon-Jane Airey

After David Cameron’s decision to cut housing benefits for under 25’s, his overseeing of the closure of EMA, the tripling of tuition fees and youth unemployment still over one million (not to mention Connexion services and the Future Jobs Fund scrapped) , it’s been reasonable to ask what exactly the government has against us young folk. Though, more pressingly, what the young folk can have against the government. I was reading an interesting piece of research this morning that touched upon this subject and so I did a bit of poking around to see how and in what areas the youth have the upper hand.

(1). Young people are often heavily influential in electoral steering points. Youth flocked in their thousands to support Thatcher in 1979 but, with the same merciless hand, were one of the largest groups to distance themselves from the ‘Iron Lady’ when austerity became a sickening cry. What’s more, it was the younger generation of Britain’s electorate that aided Tony Blair to his landslide victory in 1997 – with a remarkable 49% voting for the first ‘New Labour’ leader. However, this figure dropped to a mere 30% when Labour lost power in 2010. In that sense, efforts to secure the youth vote in today’s political climate aren’t solely directed towards the right: research by the Electoral Commission shows that both party leaders will have to work hard to secure this potentially tight grip on electoral victory. Indeed, apparently young people make up one of the biggest groups of unregistered voters and with the aforementioned cuts, the government have the potential to see this group expand even more. Labour’s proposals, therefore, of a mooted voter registration drive could well be a strategic move against their Conservative opponents. But there’s a moral advantage too: if you demonstrate a need to protect and enhance the voice of a certain demographic, they’re more likely to vote for you.

(2) Parties associated with a group’s enfranchisement are also a valued way of gaining a certain group’s vote. Migrant communities and their electoral loyalty towards the Labour party since the party secured their voting rights are a case in point. And, with the debate on reducing the voting age to 16 wedged within political woodwork, this could well be a band wagon party officials searching for a ‘youthful edge’ may want to jump on. There is, however, an element of risk that comes with focusing campaigns on the younger generation as statistics show the older you are, the more reliable you are to turn up to the polling station. In fact the Guardian ICM poll shows that on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being certain to vote, 18-24s score an average of less than 6, compared to over 65s who score 8.6. But with previous examples of their serious clout when rallied to turn out en masse ever present, there perhaps needs to be a more concerted effort to replace political fatigue and disillusion with political enthuse. A job for the politicians, not the people.

(3) Finally, and what is perhaps most telling, is that since the 1970s victorious parties in the general elections have always secured at least a third of the youth vote. Indeed, 42% of 18-25 year olds voted for Maggie T when she mounted her campaign to gain No. 10. The interesting exception for the Conservative party is David Cameron who secured only 30% of the youth vote in 2010. Youth representation in parliament that year, however, rose sharply due to the Lib Dems who have the lowest average age of supporter.  That said, the Lib Dems’ political forecast amongst the young folk in 2012 is, at best, patchy. Interestingly, in a month before the general election some 48% of 18-25’s were prepared to vote Lib Dem. Two years later and that figure has dropped 7 percentage points. Indeed, the Lib Dems’s decisions in office and their subsequent relationship with the younger generation has been compared to that of being dumped by your first love: a painful experience that can burn rather deep. Gaining back such trust, therefore, proves rather difficult.

So with the Lib Dem favourite out of the running, the Conservatives increasingly antagonising the young and Labour clinging loosely onto unstable proposals, it looks like the potentially valuable youth vote is there for the taking…

Local Elections 2012: a powerful blow from an effective opposition, or a voter-toxic Coalition?

Image

c/o NevilleHobson

By Luke Prescott

The local elections in England, Scotland and Wales have seen huge gains for the Labour party. Indeed, if mirrored in a general election vote Labour would have a comfortable majority, with Labour taking 38%, the Tories on 31% and the Lib Dems 16%. Big gains across swing seats in the South and Midlands illustrate that Labour and Ed Miliband are making the required headway into the seats that decide elections; even in Cameron’s own backyard.

So, is Ed Miliband leading Labour back to power for 2015 with an effective opposition? Not exactly; the current government is an opposition in itself and does not require a formal opposition to sit in Parliament alongside it. Cameron and Clegg (along with their lieutenants) wage war with each other on a number of issues (like the AV referendum) and have been doing so for some time. The beleaguered and delayed reform of the House of Lords is likely to give way to more open disagreement between the PM and Deputy PM.

The infighting of the Coalition is not going away, for both parties’, it useful in distinguishing themselves as each Party proves toxic to their opposite party’s core voters. This provides breathing space for Labour, as the Coalition partners save the most visceral of attacks for one another. Such an atmosphere is new to the opposition, and Ed Miliband needs to seize the opportunity to run a clean campaign in the run up to the general election.

Whilst the Lib Dems bleed the Tories by seemingly tying them down to the centre ground, and the Lib Dems haemorrhage voters, Miliband can concentrate, not on attacks, but on saving the NHS and tangible plans to nurture the economy back to health. Tory MP Gary Streeter has suggested that the Conservative party faithful are ”gagging” for the government to veer right on domestic issues traditionally seen to be in the Tory backyard, such as law and order, and the police. These credentials have been damaged of late; the cuts to police forces are seemingly to blame for the riots spreading around London, and the rest of the country.

Not only domestic issues, but the rise of UKIP (securing around 13% of votes where it fielded candidates) is also an inevitable source of tension. UKIP have seized the EU vacuum. Pressure has mounted on Cameron from influential elements of the Tory party to renegotiate and repatriate powers from the EU before the next election.

The pressure to veer right on domestic issues, such as the upcoming Lords Reform and Tory backbenchers eager for a Euro-showdown, will lead to disarray in the Coalition in the lead up to 2015. Ed Miliband has two roles in opposition: to derail the current Government, and then to promote his own. With one of these responsibilities taken care of already, Labour can concentrate on portraying themselves as the natural successors of the beleaguered Coalition in 2015. A positively run campaign will distinguish Labour and Ed Miliband from the pack, as voters shun austerity and hardship for a more optimistic vision.

However, a pit fall may come in the danger of losing national focus. The major legislative debates over the coming years will lead to inter-coalition battles and the media will continue to feed into the idea of a strained marriage between two coalition partners, seemingly putting on a brave face for the kids. Ed Miliband and Labour will struggle to be heard at times, and a danger is that at the next election they may look like the kid at a wedding, struggling to find a seat at the grown up’s table.

The Liberal Democrats – unpopular but not incompetent

By Tom Dymond-Andrews

In case you’d forgotten, the Liberal Democrats are still in Westminster. Nick Clegg is still the Deputy Prime Minister and Britain still has a Coalition government.

With all eyes on Europe, and attention soon to be turning across the pond, even in government it can be easy to overlook Britain’s third party. In terms of how the public view them, this has undeniably been a torrid 18 months. As a party they have a mere 15% rating in opinion polls compared to the Tory 37%, and Clegg has a net score of -19% whilst his counterpart David Cameron boasts an impressive 48% approval rating. Read more of this post

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